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DySoC News, January 2019
DySoC News, October 2018
DySoC News, August 2018
DySoC News, May 2018
DySoC News, April 2018
DySoC News, March 2018


SEMINARS DySoC and NIMBioS continue their seminars series on topics related to social complexity in the Spring 2019 semester. Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held in Hallam Auditorium (Room 206) at NIMBioS at 3:30. Most are also live streamed and recorded.

See DySoC Seminars for more information.


DySoC Investigative Workshop: Mathematics of Gun Violence. May 1-3, 2019. Organizers: Andrea Bertozzi, Louis Gross, Andrew Papachristos, Martin Short, Shelby Scott.   This workshop brought together researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to (i) review the existing approaches on the mathematics and modeling of gun violence, (ii) identify and prioritize areas in the field that require further research, (iii) develop cross-disciplinary collaborations to gain new perspectives, and (iv) suggest research and data-collection that could assist evidence-based policy recommendations. The workshop included participant presentations, a poster session, and breakout groups on topics of interest. Participants will contribute to a review outlining current approaches, identifying gaps in the literature and presenting potential future directions. It is expected that collaborations arising from the workshop will result in novel efforts to enhance the quantitative underpinnings of the science of gun violence.

DySoC Investigative Workshop: Social norms: emergence, persistence, and effects. April 23-25, 2019. Organizers: Michele Gelfand, Nathan Nunn, and S. Gavrilets. Human social behavior is controlled by many interacting factors including material cost-benefit considerations, genetically-informed social instincts, personality, and culturally transmitted norms, values, and institutions. This workshop brought together 35 active scholars interested in various aspect of social norms with the aim of stimulating new synergies, insights, and collaborations. The meeting was a transdisciplinary gathering of researchers from diverse disciplines including sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, evolutionary biology, cultural evolution, neurobiology, political science, history, and experts on extremism, marketing, communications, as well as policy scholars and practitioners.

DySoC Investigative Workshop: Human Origins 2021. Feb 15-16 2019. Organizers: S. Gavrilets, F. de Waal, P. J. Richerson. The year 2021 will be the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's second book "The Descent of Man" (1871). This workshop aimed to develop strategies for preparing the scientific community for the widespread celebration of the achievements of life science in understanding human origins (including continuities and discontinuities with other species) that will accompany this anniversary. Overall goal: to leverage this oncoming anniversary 1) to advance scientific research focusing on the evolutionary forces and mechanisms that drove the origins of the human species and on implications of our evolutionary past for modern humans and 2) to promote public understanding of the significance of this research across various segments of society, including educators, politicians, business leaders, and medical doctors. A specific goal was to build momentum and stimulate collaborative research networks across various scientific disciplines (such as evolutionary biology, primatology, anthropology, neurobiology, psychology, economics and other social sciences) with the aim of establishing a major new synthesis center analogous to the highly successful previous NSF-funded centers (NCEAS, NESCent, NIMBioS, and SESYNC) which have already revolutionized the way research is done across a range of life sciences.

DySoC Investigative Workshop on Extending the Theory of Sustainability took place December 5-7, 2018. The workshop was a great success. We expect some of the workshop participants to be back to work on manuscripts of several papers.

See DySoC Workshops for a workshop calendar.

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New Members

Michael Blum. Michael is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He received his Ph.D. from Duke University. Michael works on the socioecology of disasters and infectious disease; coastal protection and restoration; and conservation and management of freshwater resources on oceanic islands.

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New Courses

Philosophy 640. Mariam Thalos is teaching a seminar in Spring 2019 on Foundations of Decision. PHIL:640 HSS-62 T 3:40-6:20 p.m. This course introduces students to the basic elements of modern decision and game theories, but the focus will be on philosophical issues in choice and reasoning towards choice. Some attention will be devoted to the adoptions of rational choice concepts in explaining human behavior, especially in economic, sociological and political sciences (including the logic of voting systems).

EEB/Math 681. Evolution of human distinctiveness: a review of ideas and mathematical models.
Instructor: Sergey Gavrilets
CRN: 43210, Section #1, 3 credit hours
MWF 2:30-3:20
Place: Ayres 122/ Claxton 103

The goal of the course is to expand on the material presented in introductory courses on mathematical modeling in biological, social and cultural evolution to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the rapidly developing theoretical research focusing on human social behavior.

The list of topics covered:

  1. Are humans a "uniquely unique species"?
  2. Pair-bonding
  3. Egalitarian preferences and fairness
  4. Cognitive abilities
  5. Language
  6. Coalitions
  7. Cooperation
  8. Conflict
  9. Learning and cultural evolution
  10. Social norms
  11. Social institutions and social complexity

For each topic, we will use at least 3 class periods to:

  • Review ideas and data,
  • Go through an earlier/classical model,
  • Go through a more recent model,
  • Critique and discuss possible generalizations of models.

No tests/exams but a significant amount of reading. Student-led discussions. A possibility for a project and/or publication.

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Recent/Upcoming Talks:

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Recent Papers:

Bentley RA, Ormerod P, Ruck DJ. 2018. Recent origin and evolution of obesity-income correlation across the United States. Palgrave Communications 4(1):1-4. [Link]

Burghardt GM, Burkhardt Jr RW. 2018. Wallace Craig's appetites and aversions as constituents of instincts: A centennial appreciation. Journal of Comparative Psychology 132(4):361-372. [Link]

Pronovost H, Peterson AC, Chavez BG, Blum MJ, Dumonteil E, Herrera CP. 2018. Deep sequencing reveals multiclonality and new discrete typing units of Trypanosoma cruzi in rodents from the southern United States. Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection. [Link]

Rael RC, Peterson AC, Ghersi-Chavez B, Riegel C, Lesen AE, Blum MJ. 2018. Rat lungworm infection in rodents across post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Emerging Infectious Diseases 24(12):2176. [Link]

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Recent grants

  • Brandon Prins:
    • Oak Ridge National Laboratory University Engagement for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Safeguards Courses at the University of Tennessee, Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy. $28,000 from DOE - ORNL - UT-Battelle - Oak Ridge National Laboratory for Baker Center.
    • Peacebuilding in conflict & post-conflict societies. $8,528 from International Studies Association to Baker Center.
  • Sergey Gavrilets has received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation entitled "Dynamic Models for Basic Theory and Applications in Cultural Evolution" ($234K). The grant's goal is to organize and develop web-based educational materials on dynamic modeling for graduate students and post-docs from across the social sciences, as well as a textbook/review aimed at applying methods of the dynamical systems theory to the evolution of institutions, a topic bringing together many basic and applied issues in cultural evolution. These activities will lay the groundwork for a social scientific paradigm shift, and can provide policy tools by which we might humanely direct our own evolution.
  • March 2018 – Sergey Gavrilets was awarded a 3-year Minerva grant (DOD) to study Integrating structural theories of revolution with evolutionary models to predict societal resilience and (in)stability.
  • January 2018 – Garriy Shteynberg was awarded a 3-year NSF grant to study Social bases of attitudinal extremetization: Shared attention versus attitudinal simulation.

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Press releases

Contact DySoC
Sergey Gavrilets, Director
403B Austin Peay
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410
PH: (865) 974-8136
FAX: (865) 974-3067 Email
Website: http://www.dysoc.org

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